July 7, 2011

Why I’m Not a Charismatic

by Nathan Busenitz

If someone were to ask me, “Are you a Charismatic/Continuationist?” I would answer, “No.” If I was then asked to explain why, in 100 words or less, my response would look something like the following:

I am convinced that the biblical gift of tongues was the supernatural ability to speak in authentic foreign languages that the speaker had not previously learned; AND that the gift of prophecy was the accurate proclamation of authoritative, inerrant revelation that the prophet received directly from the Holy Spirit; AND that the gift (or gifts) of healing resulted in the immediate, undeniable, and complete recovery of a sick or injured person at the hands of the healer.

I am equally convinced that those things are not currently happening in church history today.

Therefore, I am not a Charismatic.

If I were then given an additional 100 words to clarify, I would probably add these subsequent thoughts:

When Charismatics/Continuationists redefine tongues as a “spiritual language” which, in fact, is not an authentic foreign language; OR when they admit that their definition of prophecy allows for numerous errors and inaccuracies; OR when they excuse their inability to heal as a lack of faith on the part of the sick person; OR when they redefine the gift(s) of healing as an extension of James 5:13–18 . . .

I am convinced that, though they are using biblical terminology to describe their experiences, there is no true equivalence between their present practice and the authentic New Testament sign gifts.

My guess is that this would spark a much larger conversation. But I am purposefully aiming at brevity in today’s post.

And, besides, that’s why we have a comments section.

Nathan Busenitz

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Nathan serves on the pastoral staff of Grace Church and teaches theology at The Master's Seminary in Los Angeles.
  • Brilliant.

    Short, sweet, and gets immediately to the heart of the issue.

    Seriously, thanks for this, Nate. You’ve served us all well.

  • Love it!! Well said.

  • Anonymous

    “…there is no true equivalence between their present practice and the authentic New Testament sign gifts.”

    thank you Nate!

  • I just finished listening to a 12 CD series by John MacArthur called “Charismatic Chaos”. And this post is a very short version of that series. Well said Nate.

  • Jules LaPierre

    Absolutely, 100% spot-on. I also appreciate your use of brevity.

  • Clyde Silla

    Dig it Nate. I’m with you, and I’m afraid anytime this discussion is brought up, 1 Corinthians 13 simply confuses the issue. Good job avoiding that.

  • Good job!
    I am posting it in Facebook.

  • Adam Bailie

    Thanks, Nate…figured you would bring this to The Cripplegate table at some point. Your functional approach to Cessationism doesn’t answer every question, but it answers some of the biggest questions. Thanks for speaking into this subject with clarity and grace…again.

  • Matthew

    How much of our cessationist stance comes from being reactionary to the clear abuses committed under the banner of Christendom?

    • If you consider the original post carefully, you’ll see that the answer to your question is very simple: none.

    • Anonymous

      For me, cessationism is self-evident. The gifts are not still around, thus they are not still around. Those that claim they have them either have nothing like them (Nate’s point) or are obvious hucksters and frauds (I think your point). So I would say that some of my cessationism is a response to the abuses of the gifts, but that most of it is a response to the absence of the gifts as they appear in the NT.

      Plus all the biblical arguments as well, but I think Nate’s point was simply to show the case w/o those.

      • Matthew

        Thank you for you reply.

        Sometimes I wonder how many simply take a cessationist position because everybody in “their camp” does.

        I’d want to make sure I was fully convinced from the Word of God (which I am in no way saying that either Nate or any contributors of this blog are not) before I landed firmly on the cessation side of the fence.

        I see the strongest argument for a cessationist stance coming from the Book of Acts (validation etc).

        Thank you for the the blog.

        • Anonymous

          Thanks Matt. I’d add to your post that while the biblical evidence of cessationism is strong, it is also all deductive. That is because it is proving a negative. It is tough to prove that what people say they have/do in 2011 is unbiblical, if it was not even around back then. So the better approach is Nate’s approach: the so-called gifts of the continuationist movement are simply not the gifts that are in the NT.

          Another way of saying that would be to lay the burden of proof on the other side. For those who speak in an unintelligible language and call it tongues, or who have the gift of healing and don’t use it to empty hospitals..where are those gifts in the NT? Be convinced of that first before you say that those gifts are still for today.

  • So, because the Spirit doesn’t seem to be leading our continuationist friends to engage, I’ll ask a question on their behalf.

    Or maybe, before I do that, I’ll ask a clarifying question, kinda-sorta on their behalf. Nate, you stated, “I am equally convinced that those things are not currently happening in church history today.”

    Why are you thus convinced?

    • Guest

      It could be there are not “continuationist” responses because this is blog is only read by people from one perspective. Just a thought.

      • Anonymous

        Probably partly to blame. Although I do see some hits from Redding, and there are no cessationists there. But our blog is three weeks old, so I am ready to exercise the spiritual gift of patience.

  • Mary Elizabeth Tyler

    This is a great topic. Where are all the cessationists hiding? And I agree with Mike, I would love to hear Nate expound on this. It is not too often we get to hear directly from someone who teaches theology at the Master’s Seminary.

  • TheBoeskool

    How about the gift of teaching? Did that gift cease (Maybe that explains why our schools are in such disarray)? What about the gift of faith? Serving? Leadership? Helps? Did all those gifts end as well? The way many in the modern, western church act (i.e. being largely pro-death penalty, pro-gun and pro-war), there is evidence that the gift of mercy is over and done. Maybe you’re right….

    How about the gift of distinguishing between spirits? Do cessationists also don’t believe that there are no spirits anymore between which they might need do discern or distinguish?

    Your “I’ve never seen it, therefore it does not exist” reasoning sounds very familiar… Where have I heard that before? Oh. That’s right. Atheists.

    • Anonymous

      I don’t think anyone said “I’ve never seen it, so it doesn’t exist.” Rather, that the miraculous gifts as seen in the NT are noticeable (that is their point). And those who claim to have them today redefine them. All the cesationist is saying is that the gifts today are no the same gifts seen in the NT. That is a little bit different than atheism.

      • Anonymous

        emphasis on the “little bit”. =)

    • Anonymous

      TheBoeskool,

      Most cessationists teach that only the revelatory and miraculous sign gifts have passed away. They would agree that the auxiliary gifts you’ve listed (like service, leadership, helps, mercy, etc.) have continued throughout church history. However, there are a minority of cessationists who believe that all of the gifts have ceased.

      The three primary gifts that are focused on in the continuationist/cessationist debate are tongues, prophecy, and healing. That is why I centered on those three in this post.

      My argument can be summed up in the following three questions: 1) How does the Holy Spirit define/describe the gifts of tongues, prophecy, and healing in His revealed Word? 2) How do modern charismatics define/describe those same gifts in their contemporary experience? 3) Do those two definitions/descriptions match?

      The simple answer to question 3 is “No.” And I do not want to be guilty of attributing to the Holy Spirit something that is contrary to what He has revealed in Scripture.

      • Philiplazar

        Nate can you define/describe whether cessationist/continuationist are baptized by the same spirit into one body and drink the same spirit( 1 Cor 12:13)????? explain it by your logic 1. revealed word 2. contemporary experience 3. defining/describing matching it.

        Philip Lazar, Pastor
        India
        philiplazar@yahoo.in

        • Philiplazar

          Nate Can you give me detailed exegetical exposition of Eph 4:13. Is this verse is already a fulfilled or still remaining/pending prophetic promise in the visible church????

          Philip Lazar, Pastor
          India
          philiplazar@yahoo.in

          • Jesse

            This is a great question! I thought this ” attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ” is accomplished at His appearing (1John 3.1-3). I want to hear others response to this. Good question!

          • Philiplazar

            Jesse 1John3:1-3 answers the question when, two more question needs an answer what and how it is going to “accomplished”. Whether it is happing right now in localised visible church?????. Without bypassing Eph 4:13 a. “Until we all come in the unity of faith” b. “of the knowledge of the Son of God”

            Philip lazar, pastor
            India
            philiplazar@yahoo.in

  • guest

    So as to the healings that do actually happen today?

    • Anonymous

      I don’t know of any cessationist that says no healings happen. Of course God heals people. But Nate’s point is that these kind of healings are not the gift of healings in the NT. If someone had the gift of healing, they should go to the hospital and heal people. But absent that gift, the church responds to sickness by praying for endurance and praying that the Lord, if it is his will, would heal the person.

  • Anonymous

    Nate, does the reformed-charismatics also believe in the healing gifts? Or only prophecy and tongues?

    The argument that we (cessationists) don’t believe that God heals today is so old. We don’t say that but somehow is put in our mouths.

    Are reformed-charismatics more reformed or more charismatics? I don’t care to listen/read to any of those on that camp, but a friend sent me a series by a pastor’s wife and I listened to it, I could tell the emphasis on the Holy Spirit in her lectures and, sad to say, some very strange advice to married women.

    I know they are reformed in their soteriology, but sometimes I go “hmmm….” Frankly, I have a problem with them practing the gibberish-tongue stuff and delivering prophecies that “might be or might be not” from God. How is that Sola Scriptura, I ask?

    Someone who is a continuist said in an forum discussion that he was considering going to a language analyst (or whatever it’s called) to see what kind of language he is speaking. Funny.

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  • Jesse

    Ok. The Holy Scriptures say to be patient with those who doubt, so I’m going to come at this gently.

    Ya’ll need to get out more. You need to see the world and all the wonderful things God is doing everywhere.

    Jesus said that those who believe in Him would do the same things He had been doing, and that they would do greater things.

    Now, on the subject of the same things….
    I know that healings of all kinds, interpretation of tongues, demons being driven out, and the dead being raised is happening today. And it’s happening at the proclamation of the Good News of God’s Kingdom in the name of Jesus Christ. It’s happening all over the world in the same way as in the Bible.

    My suggestion to ya’ll is that you pray. Open up your Bibles and ask the Holy Spirit to show you what Jesus is doing today, because that’s who he’s come to testify about. The Spirit of God is not going to testify to your deductive reasoning that merely parrots powerless men who sit around stroking their beards and each others egos; a form of godliness but an outright denial of power.

    None of you can “prove” from the Scriptures that Jesus doesn’t give all the gifts of the Spirit as he has from the beginning, because His purpose in the earth is still the same. He came to seek and to save what was lost, and He has a pretty good idea how to do it. His leadership is perfect. All you have is cleverly crafted words, personal experiences, or the account of others personal experiences. But ironically enough, these positions are the basis for your criticism of those who believe. At least those who believe have the Scriptures to validate and confirm their experience.

    I understand your position that you don’t believe the spiritual gifts expressed by Jesus and his disciples as a testimony to the kingdom are matched by what’s practiced in the western church today.

    But I tell you, in the dust of Mozambique, and in the gutters of Hong Kong, and in the mountains of Mexico and beyond you can find the sons and daughters of the Living God doing great exploits which identically match the work of Jesus and the Apostles. It is the Spirit of Jesus working in them and through them to accomplish everything that’s in His heart.

    I must say that I usually don’t engage in this sort of blog, but a friend posted this link, expressing approval of what what said so I checked it out. I read through all your posts and felt your hunger for someone to engage with you who doesn’t see the same faith the same way.

    I welcome the dialog with those who genuinely know and love our Lord and have a sincere love for the Scriptures and hunger for Truth.

    A prayer for all reading this: Ephesians 1.17-23

    • Robert Sakovich

      Just speaking for myself here, but I take the experiences of 2,000 years of church history to be a pretty strong account of the sign gifts having gone away. Also, if you just follow the chronology of the books in the New Testament and the mention of sign gifts, you can clearly see that they fade out of existence. Paul didn’t heal people that he was close with during the latter parts of his life. We don’t read about tongues in any of the later books, either. The Bible is a clear testimony and doesn’t need authentication…and that is what the sign gifts were for.

      • guest

        You can’t CLEARLY see that they have faded away when they are STILL HAPPENING TODAY.

        • Mary Elizabeth Tyler

          “But he answered and said unto them, An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign (Mat 12:39).”

          “Then if any man shall say unto you, Lo, here is Christ, or there; believe it not. For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect (Mat 24:24).”

          So, reading Matt 24:24 it is proven that false Christ’s can perform great signs and wonders.

          Read Jonathan Edward’s book Religious Affections. It clearly proves that for every true act of grace there is a counterfeit.

          • Jesse

            Hey Mary!
            Jesus is addressing those who were seeing miracles and demanding more for their consent to believe. I agree we’re not supposed to follow signs and wonders. They’re suppose to follow us who believe.

            You make a great point. If there are counterfeits there is the the real thing right up to the end! Good verse.

            Love Jonathan Edwards!

          • Mary Elizabeth Tyler

            Hi Jesse:

            Sign seekers generally want Jesus only for His benefits/gifts. Which is not surprising, since this need or greed has spawned and given definition to the health, wealth and prosperity crowd. If you have a chance to debate Pentecostasl or someone in the Word of Faith movement, you can quickly sum up their motives/psychology behind their profession of faith. All of their hopes and desires are focused on their needs and wants being met here and now. Getting their immediate needs met here and now, was/is no different from what the unbelieving Jews hoped Jesus would do for them.

            The theology behind sign seekers is they want something tangible in their hands. They want to see, touch, and feel things that can affirm Christ’s existence. They do not live by faith but by sight. I used this quote in one of Mike Riccardi’s articles a while back, and I also used it in my debate with a few Pentecostals: This quote is from Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress: “A Bird in the hand is worth two in the Bush, is of more Authority with them, then are all testimonies of the good of the world to come.”
            [1678 Bunyan Pilgrim’s Progress I. 42]

            Sign seekers want a bird in the hand, something tangible, and this is of MORE authority with them then is all the testimonies of the good of the world to come. Here and now is their heaven. There colossal failure is that they fail to see the risen/transcendent Christ, and can only envision a bird in the hand. They do not set their minds on the things above (Col 3:2).

            Now, John Piper, being a Charismatic, has a great understanding of Christ’s purpose. In his book Future Grace, page 392, “We must seek our joy in God Himself and not in the health, wealth and prosperity He gives us.” So there is diversity of thought among Charismatics.

      • Jesse

        Thanks for the feedback, Robert.

        I would agree with you, if I didn’t know better. You are correct in saying the “sign gifts” faded out with the predominantly followed western Christianity, which looked at the faith as a means to expand empire. Take a lesson from Americans. Just cause they say they’re Christians…..
        I suggest to you that most of the Christian history you’re referring to is actually responsible for the persecution and martyrdom of true believers. Why would the Spirit of God testify to those who rule over others by the confession of the Bible and put to death any who disagree?
        Empirical Christianity aside, if you instead follow the history east, specifically in the Greek Orthodox traditions, you find a rich history miracles in the church right up to this present day. These believers even have a reputation among the Muslim nations for healing. These are the churches who can trace their pastoral lineage back to the Apostles, including Paul. I guarantee the church history you’re referring to is not the whole story.

        You make a good point about the absent evidence of miracles as the NT progresses. Although, this position could work in favor the other way, stating that these became such the norm they need not be mentioned further. Either way it’s an interesting argument and would hold validity if the books beyond Acts were written as history, but they are pastoral letters in form, addressing issues within the church. Perhaps the subject of gifts was established early and needed no further explanation. I mean, how often did Jesus actually teach on miracles, really? He just did them as He saw the need. I believe Jesus is perfect theology.

        From your comment on the Bible and from others posts, I gather this blog is for the camp of Christianity that holds the Scriptures as the perfection that was to come. Am I right? Make no mistake about it. Paul is talking of Christ’s return and the hope of it, which was a central theme in his letters. So, for now brothers, we only know in part. But I’m glad to dialog with ya’ll about what’s been revealed 🙂

        • Anonymous

          Jesse,

          Thanks for taking the opportunity to interact with us here. Unfortunately, I do not have time today to engage in depth (as I am finishing up sermon preparations for tomorrow). But I hope to respond in more detail on Monday, as there is much that could be said.

          In the meantime, if you are interested, I would invite you to listen to the link provided below. It is from a Shepherds’ Conference seminar session I gave a couple years ago. I think it will give you a better understanding of where we are coming from.

          http://www.gracechurch.org/media/369/whos_afraid_of_the_holy_ghost/

          • Jesse

            Thanks Nate!

            I’m downloading the mp3 right now. I’ll check it out and look forward to hearing some of your feedback Monday. I’m really enjoying interacting with everyone here. Like I said, I don’t usually engage with other believers on these subjects, especially in a blog. Thanks for the opportunity to hash out with ya’ll what we believe and why; what it’s based on.

            Until Monday, to everyone else, please continue to post your views, beliefs, and perspectives. You guys are family. And although family doesn’t always agree on everything (and we don’t get to choose our family), I appreciate your (plural) sincerity and heart for the Truth. Keep asking, keep seeking, keep knocking, and keep posting. I will too 🙂

          • Mary Elizabeth Tyler

            Thank you for the link, Nate. It was so enjoyable and enlightening.

  • Jesse

    To Mary,

    I like what you said. There has been the tendency in mainstream charismatic circles to look at faith and the Gospel as a means of personal gain. However this doesn’t mean it is without gain. God has qualified us to inherit Himself along with all things through the blood of His Son. This is incredible, and Good News!

    I think what gets missed in all this is the heart of Jesus and His primary motivation for doing what he does. Jesus is motivated out of compassion for those in need, so He fed the masses, healed the lame and sick, and spoke supernatural knowledge into people lives that someone naturally would not have known. He did all these things in order to draw people into the knowledge of God’s love for them personally expressed in His incarnation. I believe he did this to draw unbelievers, and continues to do this for believers that we would be strengthened within and grow in the vast love of God as Paul describes in Ephesians 3. The spiritual gifts operating within the church are for the building up and edification of everyone. I don’t know that we have this fully down yet, because we are seemingly just beginning to see our lack of love for one another. And as a consequence of this lack, many have abandoned eagerly desiring to build one another up as only Jesus can, to the point where this expression of God’s heart is denied.

    Predominately, the church welcomes everyone to “come as you are.” Everyone but Christ. And, as in Revelation 3, He’s left outside knocking, saying that there’s more. This more comes from communion with Him. It flows from His throne. It’s life abundant 🙂

    • Mary Elizabeth Tyler

      This is so true, Jesse, all riches are in Christ. But since the whole creation STILL groans and suffers the pains of childbirth (Rom 8:22), we will not see the full-orbed benefit of Christ’s riches until He returns.

      Talking to as many Pentecostals as I have, they are a bit reticent to admit that “heaven” is not promised to us here on earth. But God would not have given us the fruit of patience, if there weren’t something more to be desired and treasured, far beyond what can be comprehended here and now. P’s simply want everything now. And that is their greatest failure, they need gratification for their own immediate, selfish desires, and fail to see that suffering and discipline has any remedial benefits.

      There are simply two distinct Jesus’, and both can’t be true. He is either first and foremost a faith healer and sole gift giver, or He is the great I AM, who is to be worshipped and honored even when we live in abject poverty, even when cancer riddles our bodies and we succumb to its wasting and deleterious effects, even when we are in prisons and in chains, even when we suffer all manner of persecutions, even when His discipline seems as though we have been fed to the ravenous vultures and even when we enjoy times of fruitful harvests. And it is up to each and every person to worship the Christ that will benefit them/us the most. The Christ who offers freedom from pain and affliction here and now, or the Christ who saves us from our sin and the eternal punishment to come. Remember, Christ came to seek and save the lost. It is important to establish first priorities. Heaven can wait!

      • Spencer

        @ Mary, thank you so much for your comment! I can’t tell you how much you have ministered to me as I hope the Lord will allow me to do to others.

        I’m speaking to a coworker about the Gospel. He comes from a charismatic background and believes that because he could speak in a tongue (not referring to any human language, but a “mysterious and angelic” language that the Bible talks about as from Pagan religions of the time) that he is saved. His answer is that if God is doing “signs” through him, then he must be saved. However, from asking him questions about salvation, he really has no understanding of his own sin or the real God who he has disobeyed. He still is unrepentant and continues to openly laugh about his current abuse of pot and sex outside of marriage. He looks at life through the lens of wealth as a means of God’s blessing.

        Though I am nothing more than a sinner myself, it breaks my heart to see people twist scripture to validate their own depravity or to take the glory away from Christ which I have so often done. He doesn’t see that heaven, though a real place that God has promised us, is more of a person than a place. The only reason we can call that place heaven is because God will be there with us to make it heaven! As Paul says in Philippians 1, “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain….[because] I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far.” 😀 My coworker looks at gifts and earthly blessings as the end all and not look at the giver or the blesser (God). Through your comment, I have only continue to confirmed in my understanding that a person cannot look to or desire Christ and what Christ gives at the same time. Either we will look at Christ or we will look at the potential blessing that we desire Christ to give us not knowing that the best and most satisfying blessing is Christ himself.

        I struggle with this greatly, especially in times of hardship, but I trust God knowing that is to my joy when I encounter various trials because the testing of my faith produces perseverance which will make me a more mature believer. A believer who has deeper communion and a greater trust in God.

        @ Jesse, I really appreciate your humble questions and responses despite differences with some of other believers on this blog. The answers that you and others give are helping me to wrestle with a few of the passages that my coworker has given me to defend his own belief. He knows just enough to argue, but not enough to bow before the throne of God in repentance and thankfulness and obedience to God’s plan of salvation.

        In response to what you were saying to Mary and I’m sure you agree with this as well: though we may “give thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in Light” Col 1:12 like what you were saying about inheriting Christ along with all things, I would be hesitant to preach anything but Christ as our portion just as David said in Psalms 73:25-26 “Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion for ever.” The whole health, wealth, and prosperity Gospel stemmed from pastors who took there eyes off of Christ and desired the gifts and blessings of this world. I’m sure it only started with a simple and small desire, but multiply that by decades and you will have pastors and churches completely devoid of the true Gospel and true Christ-worship.

        I’m so sensitive to this issue because a close friend of my family walked a way from the Lord in desiring to be a Christian millionaire. It only started with him wanting to have a few financial blessings to full blown idolatry. He became a millionaire all right and believes God blessed him, but he has completely walked away from the faith and has created his own “Christian” God who allows for him to commit outlandish sin. We didn’t think much of it 40 years ago since it’s not a sin to “want to achieve a goal”, but as he continued in his life and ended up breaking off the relationship with our family because we weren’t at his financial status, we realized our error in not exhorting him to reset His eyes above when he was just a young man. When he dies and realizes what He gave up in a relationship with Christ for the pursuit of earthly pleasures, lusts and pride of life, it sends chills up my spine to imagine God saying, “Depart from me I never knew you.”

        Anyway, something that I do struggle with is the “perfect” in 1 Corinthians 13:10. What is the reasoning for that being God’s perfect Word or God’s perfect Son?

        • Spencer

          I want to qualify what I said about my friend of the family who became a “Christian millionaire.” Not every form of idolatry is that blatant, but all it takes is to be complacent about displacing God from the throne of your heart’s desire, whether it shows outwardly or not right now or for a long time.

        • Mary Elizabeth Tyler

          Hi Spencer:

          What you had to say here is absolutely true. “Either we will look at Christ or we will look at the potential blessing that we desire Christ to give us not knowing that the best and most satisfying blessing is Christ himself.”

          We all know that the riches in this life are inferior to the riches found in Christ. Moses understood that. He could have had the keys to the coffers of Egypt. But what was his outcome? “By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to endure ill-treatment with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin, considering the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt; for he was looking to the reward. By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king; for he endured, as seeing Him who is unseen (Heb 11:24-27).”.

          He passed over the pleasures of sin and the treasures of Egypt, because He was looking to the **reward** and could **see Him who is unseen**.” That just about sums up what I have been trying to say in my former posts.

          “Riches do not profit in the day of wrath, But righteousness delivers from death (Pro 11:4).”

          God bless you,

          Mary

  • Jesse

    In regard to Nate’s first 100 words: Do you think someone needs to be a prophet in order to prophecy? How do you understand prophecy and the office of a prophet?

    • Robert Sakovich

      Do you mean in the Biblical sens of prophecy? As in, “Thus says the LORD…”. Or Scripture that is affirmed to be inspired? That is the difference I see between prophecy in the Bible and prophecy today. Plus prophecy today is not inerrant.

  • Sam

    Isn’t God the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow?

    • God is unchanging, but the way in which he deals with people does change though time, especially as he gives more revelation. People before the Law came were not expected to worship at the temple, for example. The church has a starting point (Acts 2), and that changes things, to give another example.

      Also, God’s unchanging nature doesn’t mean he deals with all people in the same way. Elisha could heal, but the Israelite servant girl could not. That doesn’t mean God changed in any way.

  • Curt

    I also had reserved where I fall on this issue until I was convinced by scripture what the truth is. I was reared (spiritually speaking) in a charismatic environment and always had reservations but couldn’t articulate them. I kept asking the Lord to make it clear to me what the truth is concerning this matter and of course, through study of His word and through a great brother in the Lord who is saturated with the word of God I have been convinced that the gifts are not in operation for now but served a very important purposes at their time. I can say with clarity now that I am not a charismatic anymore because the Lord was merciful to me and answered my prayer. Blessings Nate and keep preaching truth.

  • Anonymous

    Although I don’t consider myself a charismatic, the mere sight of an article of this nature caused an immediate grievance in my spirit. I’m 57, and have been involved with many churches and parachurch ministries. I have seen SO MUCH needless divisiveness — a majoring on minors (and, as such, often minoring on majors), the endearing of some groups and disparaging of others, based on one peripheral-doctrine-persuasion or another.

    (This is distinct and separate from critical, central doctrine, that unites true believers).

    It sickens my heart that this love-of-doctrine-OVER- love- for- the- brethren so tirelessly continues.

    I busied myself in these sorts of things when I was young and immature. God dealt with my ugly, self-righteous, critical heart, and continues to, every day. Forgive me if I sound harsh, but I’ve grown weary of the noise.. that which you hear when love seems to be lacking (I Cor 13).

    And, as one wise man said, “I’d rather work with the people with the funny doctrine than these types”. Oh, they do have their excesses.. sometimes to ridiculous extremes. And the dry boat-riders are always there to disparage and discredit the wet water-walkers — those who dare, faults and all, to apply their faith.

    I could point out some atrocities for you, committed by other camps – some who are so hyper-religious and dogmatic on their views, that any who do not share their particular view are not even saved. Both the charismatics AND their antagonists have done this. It’s called over-focus. Close one eye, take a nickel and put it right in front of the other. Soon, the whole world looks like a nickel. Perspective is easily lost (the big picture) with premature concluding.. rather than being a processor, wherein one is able to suspend judgment while they wait for more data. Some doctrines are better “held loosely”.

    I used to have “all the pieces of the puzzle”. But I had the wrong picture. Now, I believe I have a better view of the big picture, but I’ve had to be content not to have all the pieces. The human heart naturally derives a sense of security out of “having all the pieces”, when it comes to divine revelation.

    If you’d rather believe that the gifts all ended with “the close of the apostolic era”, or with the completion of the NT canon, that is your right. But you do not have the right to stigmatize other groups with your influence.

    Will you be publishing about the Fundamentalists next? Or the Arminians? Missionaries? Or just of those you don’t like?

    Remember, as a teacher, you will incur the stricter judgment.
    And I’m sure that the vast majority of what you teach is really good. 🙂

    I suppose my main appeal here is, be sure to speak all truth IN LOVE. Even perceived truth in peripheral areas of doctrine. Remember compassion for the human condition, and God’s great heart towards us, in spite of our great and many sins.
    For we all, likewise, are in such great need of mercy.

    Being good watchmen in the Lord’s body is one thing. And it behooves believers everywhere to keep sound doctrine. No sensible believer likes false, compulsive
    prophesying, and the messy, soulish splurges of a charismatic circus. But to write it ALL off as false, at the stroke of a Benjamin Warfield pen, or based merely on one school of thought, is not wise.

    What is wise is what the Bereans did. They evaluated / interpreted all teaching by scripture. My extensive background in cults, occult and world religion powerfully attests to this fact. I was delivered from an enormous amount of deception. I don’t mean to go beyond the immediate topic here, but beware of interpreting scripture by teaching – no matter what camp you are in, or matter how popular that teaching is.

    Minds far greater than ours in Church history have offered formidable arguments for the “perpetuity of the gifts”. It is not my interest to doctrinally persuade here.
    Only love.

    I don’t believe your intention was to be divisive or unloving. (Sometimes we have to intend NOT to). If there’s any love, heart, compassion for those who happen to have a different vantage point, upbringing or persuasion, these should temper our approach toward the Lord’s body in general, as opposed to a smug demeaning spirit towards others, “who are not approved as workmen..” like we are.

    It’s pride, I say.. doctrinal pride. The subtle arrogance of our own learnedness.
    I’ve seen good, Godly leaders repent of this kind of thing.

    Our priority should be to Love, to minister, to show the heart of God; not to fix, self-aggrandize and clone ourselves on others. I’ve had brothers even agree with this.. but they can’t help it. The habit is so ingrained! So, on it goes, stirring up controversy which is not profitable, loving the debate rather than souls, generating more heat than light, feeling taller by chopping off others’ heads, offering yet another emphasis of man-made religion rather than the vitality of relationship.

    It’s an insatiable itch for conformity (that is, of another.. to me) — the “unity of the intellect”, not the unity of the Spirit. It’s that persistent, small-minded approach that causes needless offense. (Some offense is unavoidable when presenting truth or sharing your faith. That’s not the kind we mean. Rather, it’s the preoccupation of mind with judgmental kinds of attitudes toward one’s fellow man. One trip to the churches in Africa would kill that quick. If you think the charismatics are weird, try your judgmental spirit out on multi-culturalism!

    Are we not a bit like 1 Corinthians 3 when we say, “I am of Calvin”, “I am of Arminius”, “I am of Jack Hayford”, “I am of Chuck Smith”, I am of Walter Martin…?

    You all can believe what you want. I’m just saying, watch your hearts. Watch how you wield knowledge. Consider your witness to the world. Let the Lord temper your spirit.

    The world is not looking for a new DEFINITION of Christianity. (.. however doctrinally-exalted and doctrinally-centered it is).

    The world is looking for a new DEMONSTRATION of Christianity. (Where JESUS is exalted and at the CENTER).

    Shall I publish an article on Why I Am Not A Calvinist? Shall I diss this group because of the horrific excesses and imbalances of extremists in THEIR group — the 500 point Calvinists? Shall I go on about the “Protestant Pope” – John Calvin, and the orgy of self-love & doctrine-worship in their circle, their sense of disdain and “superiority” they have toward other groups.. those “who all need to come out of Babylon”?

    I’m not interested. It’s not love. In reality, these are precious brothers & sisters in the Lord I speak of. Those you are critical of, I hope you see them as dear and precious too.

    I think we have better things to do than publish things that diss certain segments of the Lord’s Body. Better we should put away our petty doctrinal popguns and tremble before a Holy God.

    • Seriously, FirstGarden? 4 times the size of Nate’s original post, and not one word engaging the actual arguments he makes?

      There’s a difference between being “smug and demeaning,” “critical,” and touting “petty doctrinal popguns,” and disagreeing with ideas. And particularly, with ideas that are harmful to the body. Nate offered a sound, patient argument. You wrongly insist that such disagreement amounts to a personal attack.

      Also, you may bifurcate love for Jesus and love for doctrine, but it’s a false dichotomy. Our Lord’s Great Commission to His Church is to make disciples of Him by teaching persons all that He has commanded us. If followers of Jesus Christ are to be obedient to the great charge He has given us, we must teach the sound doctrines of the Word of God, and refute those who contradict (Tit 1:9; cf. 1Tim 4:6). Doctrine matters. And to pretend it doesn’t is not loving, but unloving.

      Plus, it’s a theology blog. I’m not sure what else you’d expect.

      • Anonymous

        Brother, you missed my whole point
        and are reacting emotionally.

        The great Apostle said to earnestly contend for the faith,
        not be contentious.

        • I expect love.

          I for one felt very loved by Nate’s post. In the sense that he’s equipped me to guard against errant teaching, and to ground my thoughts entirely in Scripture and not in experience. I’m afraid your definition of love is lacking.

          Brother, you missed my whole point and are reacting emotionally.

          I’m not quite sure how you can be so sure. To tell you the truth, I’m actually not reacting emotionally, but I’m beginning to detect a pattern of your interactions. You fancy yourself quite a judge of others’ hearts and motives. Ironic.

          Re-read what I wrote.

          One time through your 1200 words off topic was enough.

          The great Apostle said to earnestly contend for the faith, not be contentious.

          Yet there is more contentiousness in your comment, FirstGarden, than in Nate’s post. Again: “smug and demeaning,” “critical,” touting “petty doctrinal popguns,” “judgmental spirit,” accusations of myopia, arrogance, “we have better things to do.”

          You are guilty of what you accuse, sir.

          But that’s enough of that. Let’s stay on topic.

          • Robert Sakovich

            The one thing that really caught me here is that you say you’d rather be around non-believers than any Christian. It isn’t that we’re not supposed to love unbelievers, but what did Jesus say is the way people will know we are His? If we have the same love for each other as He has for us. And He didn’t hesitate to tell anybody the hard truth…which is what this post is all about.

            I cringe when I hear statements like that one you made about being around unbelievers than a Christian like this. It is similar to how I feel hearing Rob Bell saying he doesn’t want to be “around a God like that” because God punishes unrepentant sinners in hell for eternity. Or when Matt Chandler (in his introductory statement in his 2010 T4G session) said that he wouldn’t be reformed if he couldn’t be charismatic. Those types of statements seem to put restrictions on how fare we’re willing to go and surrender ourselves to the Lord instead of clinging on to our own beliefs.

            Sorry if I wandered off-topic, but just felt the need to address this.

          • Mary Elizabeth Tyler

            FirstGarden:

            Truth matters! And it is no surprise to anyone here, I am sure, to be called unloving if you stand for the truth.

            You see, truth can be compromised and maligned by the use of one simple word. Jehovah’s Witnesses contend that Jesus is “A” God. We contend that He IS God. What trouble this one little word “A” can do to deceive. The consequences for this type of blatant disregard for the truth, is manifold and horrific. It touches countless lives for the soul purpose to destroy men’s souls. If just one little word can make such a life and death difference, think of the larger context of Scripture, after all we are told not to add or take away one jot or tittle (Matt 5:18).

            In John MacArthur’s book The Truth War, he points out (I am paraphrasing his words), “Right behavior should not trump right belief. Faith, not works is what justifies us. It is what a person believes rather than what they do that justifies them before God. Justification is by faith alone and not by our works (Romans 4:5).”

            This is not a total overthrow, undoing or disconnect of Christian love, but this simply will not allow or excuse anyone from not grounding love in TRUTH.

            Our allegiance is to God’s truth, and that truth is defended by a strong desire to see men’s souls make it to the finish line and beyond. That is called love. Mike is only doing what is in his heart, defending the truth for the sake of others. And in my estimation, he has not even crossed the line of being unkind.

            A good friend of mine, George Mattern, says it this way, “King David solemnly acknowledged to the Lord, “You have magnified Your word according to all Your name” (Ps. 138:2). Therefore, since “the Lord will not leave him unpunished who takes His NAME in vain” (Ex. 20:7), the same penalty certainly awaits all who would take His simalarly exalted WORD in vain by misusing it. Let every man sincerely examine himself in this very serious matter!”

            “Every WORD of God is pure (Pro 30:5).”

      • Anonymous

        When I get back, later tonight, I’ll go in and edit some things that may have been too harsh. The words are not perfect, but please just try to hear my heart here, bro.

        • Please let me discourage you from doing that, FirstGarden. Your original comment had nothing to do with Nate’s actual post. To continue in that direction is only to further deviate from the topic.

          If you want to actually engage the argument that Nate makes, you’re certainly welcome to do that. But as it stands, your comments here are more fitting of a post on your own blog rather than a comment on this one.

        • Mary Elizabeth Tyler

          Will a moderator please replace “is” with the word are, in, are manifold and horrific. And sole instead of soul, in, for the soul purpose of. This concerns my reply to FirstGargen.

          Thank you, kindly,.
          Mary

          I need to do a better job in proofing.

    • Anonymous

      I deleted everyone’s reply to this, as well as everyone’s reply to everyone else’s reply.

      First Garden: I think the point you made above is not so much about Nate’s post, but an appeal for people who say the gifts have ceased to do so in love. I think Nate did so (it read to me that way anyway). Was there a part you found unloving, or a part you think is a bad witness to the world?

  • Anonymous

    So I deleted FirstGarden’s comment, as well as everyone’s reply to him. Firstgarden: I deleted yours because you later said you wrote things that you thought were too harsh, so I just took the whole thing out.

    The main point, for those who are interested: Firstgarden said it that Nate’s article (and/or possibly) the rest of the comment thread is unloving and divisive, and a poor witness to the world.

    Rather than have everyone else reply, I’ll just ask Firstgarden this: what part? If I agree, I’ll fix it it. Thanks,

    Jesse

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